Parents: Cyber Bullying Led to Teen's Suicide

Mother creates fictitious male profile to gain teen's confidence and learn info.

ByABC News via logo
February 19, 2009, 4:39 AM

Nov. 19, 2007 — -- The parents of a 13-year-old girl who believe their daughter's October 2006 suicide was the result of a cruel cyber hoax are pushing for measures to protect other children online.

Tina and Ron Meier, who are now separated and plan to divorce, have taken up the cause of Internet safety after a bizarre twist in their daughter Megan Meier's death.

The mother of a former friend of Megan's allegedly created a fictitious profile in order to gain Megan's trust and learn what Megan was saying about her daughter. But the communication eventually turned hostile.

"There needs to be some sort of regulations out there to protect children. Parents can only be in so many places and so many times," Tina Meier said on "Good Morning America Weekend Edition" Sunday. "I wish there were regulations with these forums. There's got to be something."

The Meiers said they are unsure why someone would do such a thing.

"We don't know. How do you get in the mind of somebody? We just have no idea," Tina Meier said.

While the Meiers do not believe it was the woman's intent to have Megan commit suicide, they do hold her solely responsible for the death.

"I believe they are the ones who took her to the edge of the cliff and forced her to go over," Ron Meier said on "GMA." "Everything that we found out so far -- it was the sole idea of the mother."

He added that he did not believe the mother was acting on her daughter's behalf.

Megan Meier sometimes suffered from low self-esteem and was on medication at the time of her death. But her family said she looked forward to her 14th birthday and having her braces removed.

When a cute boy befriended Megan on the social networking site MySpace, the two formed a quick connection during their more than month-long relationship.

"She got this e-mail from this boy named Josh Evans," Tina Meier said.

Evans claimed to be a 16-year-old boy who lived nearby and was home schooled. But what began as a promising online friendship soon turned sour, as compliments turned to insults.

Evans said he didn't have a phone and so Megan couldn't talk to him. But the two continued their communication online, despite some red flags Tina Meier said she saw.

"It was just that nervous mom," Tina Meier said. She called police to find out if they could determine if a MySpace account was real. They couldn't.

Still, all seemed to go well between Megan and Josh until an unsettling message started a tragic chain of events.

"Megan gets an e-mail, or a message from Josh on her MySpace on Oct. 15, 2006, saying, 'I don't know if I want to be friends with you any longer because I hear you're not nice to your friends,'" Tina Meier said.

Someone using Josh's account was sending cruel messages and Megan called her mother, saying electronic bulletins were being posted about her, saying things like, "Megan Meier is a slut. Megan Meier is fat," according to the Associated Press.

The cyber exchange devastated Megan, who was unable to understand how and why her friendship unraveled. The stress and frustration was too much for Megan, who had a history of depression.

Tina Meier discovered her daughter's body in a bedroom closet on Oct. 16, 2006. Megan had hanged herself and died a day later.

But six weeks after Megan's death, the Meiers learned Josh Evans never existed. A mother, who had learned of the page from her own daughter, told the Meiers a neighborhood mom had created and monitored Evans' profile and page.

There was a connection between the Meiers and the family with the mother accused of running Evans' profile. In fact, the woman who created the profile had asked the Meiers if her family could store their foosball table.

Once they learned of the family's involvement, the Meiers destroyed the table, placed it in the woman's yard and encouraged the family to move, according to the AP.

"That's the biggest tragedy of this whole thing: An adult did it," Ron Meier said.

While the woman who created the fake profile has not been charged with a crime, residents have proposed a new ordinance related to child endangerment and Internet harassment. It could come before city leaders on Wednesday, according to the AP.

In the information age, playground poundings have moved to online chat rooms and instant messages. Nearly half of all teenagers report they have been the victim of cyber attacks. Everything from text messaging to e-mail can be used to bully victims. Some people even create Web sites solely dedicated to harassment.

It may be difficult for a well-meaning child to initially tell the difference between friend and foe online.

"When emotionally vulnerable young people get online, they can be very easily manipulated," said Nancy Willard, executive director of the Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use.

Ron Meier said parents should be mindful of their children's online activities and relationships.

"Be as watchful as you can be," he said.

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